TNF-alpha and neuropathic pain--a review

J Neuroinflammation. 2010 Apr 16:7:27. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-7-27.


Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) was discovered more than a century ago, and its known roles have extended from within the immune system to include a neuro-inflammatory domain in the nervous system. Neuropathic pain is a recognized type of pathological pain where nociceptive responses persist beyond the resolution of damage to the nerve or its surrounding tissue. Very often, neuropathic pain is disproportionately enhanced in intensity (hyperalgesia) or altered in modality (hyperpathia or allodynia) in relation to the stimuli. At time of this writing, there is as yet no common consensus about the etiology of neuropathic pain - possible mechanisms can be categorized into peripheral sensitization and central sensitization of the nervous system in response to the nociceptive stimuli. Animal models of neuropathic pain based on various types of nerve injuries (peripheral versus spinal nerve, ligation versus chronic constrictive injury) have persistently implicated a pivotal role for TNF-alpha at both peripheral and central levels of sensitization. Despite a lack of success in clinical trials of anti-TNF-alpha therapy in alleviating the sciatic type of neuropathic pain, the intricate link of TNF-alpha with other neuro-inflammatory signaling systems (e.g., chemokines and p38 MAPK) has indeed inspired a systems approach perspective for future drug development in treating neuropathic pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases